Seven years ago, I wrote an entry that featured an American hero and icon who passed from our midst yesterday. We also shared a birthday, so I felt a special kinship. Here is that 2007 post, with my deep fondness and respect.
Husband and I are on a great vacation at the moment and I will share some adventures in another post. At this moment, I am reflecting on our different styles when it comes to flying, which we just did once again. I’ve blogged a great deal about my experiences above and below the clouds, but for this entry the focus is more about our individual airport behavior.
Neither of us are flight lovers, and this has nothing to do with the Mile-High Club or any similar adult antics I’ve heard about and can’t even fathom (don’t other passengers get suspicious when they hear your Barry White CD?) Specifically, my own white-knuckle fever begins with boarding and eases with landing. The whole concept of being airborne with nothing but nothing between me and the earth’s surface is nauseating. I’ve never in my life actually puked onboard a plane, but that’s only because I know what I look like puking.
Husband’s anxiety revolves around fear of missing the plane: car service not arriving in time causing us to miss the plane; being scrutinized by security for so long we miss the plane; me lingering in the ladies room so long that we miss the plane (I should be so lucky). As a result of his nervousness, he gets very chatty. I do not withstand chattiness well when I’m trying very hard not to puke.
This is the kind of thing that happens: An airport attendant will loudly announce to the line waiting to go through security that everyone should have their boarding pass ready, and Husband will wave his boarding pass in the air calling out, “I’ve got it! It’s right in my hand here!” and I keep telling him this just attracts attention. The same goes for his assuring the lady waving the security wand over his belt that he has nothing to hide, he’ll take anything off she tells him to. She looks at him like, “Hmmm,” and motions another guard over to help inspect him. He might as well just yell out, “Al-Qaeda in the house!” and be done with it.
Because of my preoccupation in the airport before flights, I’ve come close to missing important occurrences, which thankfully have been pointed out by Husband. On a trip to London last year, we entered JFK and walked through an outlying seating area and I spotted an elderly man, seemingly homeless, sitting all alone in the corner with his back to us strumming a guitar and humming softly. He was in worn jeans, an equally worn denim jacket, and what looked like a railroad engineer’s cap. I expressed sympathy to Husband and said maybe we should go drop a buck in his guitar case. He looked at me like I was deranged. “You go ahead, I’ll wait here and watch,” he said. “That’s Pete Seeger.”
Mr. Seeger was indeed on our British Airways flight, and we approached him as we arrived at Heathrow and thanked him for the unforgettable musical legacy he has provided for over half a century. He was humble and gentle and as soft-spoken as you would expect. In the most elemental way, it felt noble to be in the presence of the man who gave us such era-defining songs as Turn Turn, Turn and If I Had A Hammer, along with the classic anti-war ballad, Where Have All the Flowers Gone?, written after he was indicted in 1956 by the House Un-American Activities Committee. A survivor of one of the darkest periods in our country’s social and political history, Pete Seeger wrote some of the richest lyrics in our collective memory. Amusingly, I came close to increasing his personal fortune by a whole dollar.